Communication Alumna's 'Autism Expressed' Program Wins Education Business Plan Competition

$20,000 awarded to the digital literacy program for autistic teens created by Michele McKeone BS '05 (Communication)

May 9, 2013

Autism Expressed, a digital literacy program for autistic teens created by Michele McKeone BS '05 (Communication), has received a $20,000 award from the Education Business Plan Competition.

Now in its fourth year, the competition is hosted by the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education (GSE) and the Milken Family Foundation, which awarded a total of $145,000 in prize money to four ed-tech start-up companies, including Autism Expressed.

The South Philadelphia High School special education teacher, featured on Philadelphia's WHYY-FM radio and NewsWork.com, won the Educational Services of America Prize for Innovation in the Fields of Special Education and At-Risk Students. McKeone has also been invited to participate in the Education Design Studio Fund, a newly announced fund initiative created in collaboration with Penn GSE.

Autism Expressed allows students with autism to learn basic Internet-literacy skills, as well as online safety and etiquette, in an independent or classroom setting. She started using the program in her own classroom, but wanted to make it available for use by other schools and organizations.

Encouraged by her former professor, Neil Kleinman, senior fellow at the University's Corzo Center for the Creative Economy, McKeone applied for the Corzo Center Creative Incubator/Wells Fargo Fellowship. Her time in the Creative Incubator program helped her refine the idea and gain business insight, and she received a $10,000 grant to put her new knowledge to use.

The public platform of Autism Expressed launched in October 2012 and has been signing up schools and individual subscribers since then.

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